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Full text of "My Country And My People"

Chapter Seven
LITERARY  LIFE

I. A DISTINCTION

THE Chinese make a distinction between literature that
instructs and literature that pleases, or literature that is "the
vehicle of truth" and literature that is "the expression of
emotion/' The distinction is easy to see: the former is objective
and expository, while the latter is subjective and lyrical. They
all pretend that the former is of greater value than the latter,
because it improves the people's minds and uplifts society's
morals. From this point of view, they look down upon novels
and dramas as "little arts, unworthy to enter the Hall of Great
Literature." The only exception is poetry, which they not only
do not despise but cultivate and honour more intensively and
generally than in the West. As a matter of fact, all of them read
novels and dramas on the sly, and the official who writes only
of benevolence and righteousness in his essays will be found,
in private conversations, to be quite familiar with the heroes
and heroines of Chinfiinmi (Gold-Vase-Plum), the pornographic
novel par excellence, or of P'inhua Paochieny an equally porno-
graphic homosexual novel.

The reason for this is not far to seek. The "literature that
instructs35 is on the whole of such low, second-rate quality, so
full of moral platitudes and naive reasoning, and the scope of
ideas is so hemmed in by the fear of heresy, that the only
Chinese literature that is readable is literature in the Western
sense, including the novels, dramas and poetry, i.e., literature
of the imagination rather than literature of ideas. Scholars
who were not economists wrote about taxation, literary men
who did not know how to handle a sickle wrote about agricul-
ture, and politicians who were not engineers wrote about "A
Plan for Huangho Conservancy" (an extremely popular topic),

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